RIO BRAVO, TX -- At an emergency townhall Monday evening, Rio Bravo residents in southern Webb County asked why they have been ignored by Austin and demanded a seat at Gov. Abbott’s table in finding real and effective solutions to security challenges at the border.
Residents were stunned to learn that Gov. Abbott has awarded a whopping $361 million in contracts since January 4 to destroy 16 river miles near their homes in Webb and Zapata counties, at a cost of nearly $23 million per mile of proposed border wall along the Rio Grande, a highly distressed river system that serves as the border’s only source of drinking water.
Like their neighbors in nearly El Cenizo (pop. 3,160), Rio Bravo residents expressed their firm opposition to the construction of a steel border wall ih their community, and discussed the need for better solutions that are less costly, and less destructive to their property values. They specifically cited: demolishing abandoned homes, funding a modern and well-staffed police force for both South Texas communities, and using proven technology to better monitor criminal activity.
Interim Mayor Amanda Aguero opened the event and welcomed attendees, explaining why the City of Rio Bravo (pop. 4,350) doesn’t support a steel border wall cutting through the City and severing access to the city’s river park. The mayor organized the event in collaboration with members of the No Border Wall Coalition. She urged residents to not sign any documents from the state related to right of way easements or access onto their land, until they have contacted an attorney from the Coalition.
“We have rights. We have a voice. We need to be heard,” were phrases repeated throughout the night by residents.
Other speakers included Pastor David Delgado of Rio Bravo Community Church, U.S. Army Veteran Valentin Ruiz of Vets United to Stop the Wall, poet Jesse Herrera, Laredo Council Member Melissa R. Cigarroa and members of the Rio Grande International Study Center. The event opened with an indigenous land acknowledgment by Promesa al Sol to acknowledge the land and river, which others have traversed for thousands of years.
Numerous requests for information about the proposed wall path in Rio Bravo, El Cenizo, and other parts of Webb County and Zapata County have been made to the Texas Facilities Commission Executive Director Michael Novack and the newly appointed “border czar” Michael Banks, who visited Laredo last week.
To date, no plans have been shared with the public, the media, local mayors, congressional representatives, or those property owners who would be directly impacted, despite private contractors already moving forward with aspects of the project.
In January 2023, the state awarded two contracts to North Dakota-based Fisher Sand & Gravel ($224 million, 9 miles) and Galveston-based SLSCO ($137 million, 6.6 miles) for Webb and Zapata counties.
Photo courtesy: Jesse G. Herrera, poet